Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Or So I Like to Think:
The Great Talk of
David Bentley Hart

 
 

The Hidden and the Manifest:
Essays in Theology and Metaphysics

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
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The Dream-Child’s Progress And Other Essays

Paperback: Angelico Press, 2017
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Essay by Martyn Wendell Jones

 

*** This essay first appeared in our Fall 2017 magazine issue.
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There are few things as pleasing to me as the great garrulous tradition in American literature. Our country’s abundance of grandly verbose storytellers represents the best of our cultural inheritance. Think of Melville, the wild and abyssal “thought-diver,” author of one of the world’s greatest stories of maritime and metaphysical adventure; think too of Whitman, irrepressible and expansive and democratic, who shed tears at the death of Lincoln—“O Captain!”; then there is Twain, whose creation Huckleberry sees his raft go “all to smash and scatteration,” which the critic Michael Schmidt identifies as evidence of a thrill for great speech.

Since our nation’s founding, we have been a polemical people; Gilbert Seldes’s The Stammering Century, American to its core, is a record of people of the 19th century, some of real eminence, giving themselves over to various utopianisms and cultic enthusiasms—the snake oil pitches and True Enlightenment hustles mixing with earnest seeking after the God-of-backwoods-revival. Our nation’s complete spiritual history and profile would show us to be strivers after the ineffable by way of quite a lot of declaiming.

Numbered among our country’s current generation of great talkers would certainly be the Eastern Orthodox philosopher-theologian David Bentley Hart, whose two recent essay collections attest to his capacity for a great speechifying all his own.

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Cultivating Shared Presence
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Together: Community as a Means of Grace
Larry Duggins

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Alden Bass
 
 
 
New Testament scholars believe that when Paul entered a new city on his missionary journeys, one of the first things he did was set up a tent-making stall in the local market. Day after day, he would sit in the narrow alleys of the shopping district, doing business and striking up conversations with passersby. Though he engaged local synagogues, there is no doubt that many of his contacts came through the spontaneous communities which formed around his daily presence in the marketplace.

In this latest addition to the Missional Wisdom Library series, Larry Duggins suggests that the church recover something of this model by facilitating missional “communities” – making space on church property and within church life for Christian and non-Christian people to come together for work, play, and fellowship.

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Learning to Dance Together
 
A Review of 

A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community
John Pavlovitz

Paperback:  WJK Books, 2017.
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Reviewed by Jennifer Burns Lewis
 
 

Whether one is graceful and light on one’s feet or is rhythmically challenged with two left ones, learning to dance with a partner can take time and varying amounts of patience. In his new book, A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community, John Pavlovitz calls for courage and patience in leading congregations…and people in general… toward the marks of a bigger table, a different kind of dance. Radical hospitality, total authenticity, true diversity and agenda-free community are the author’s indications of a faith-filled community of believers that truly strives to welcome all. Like dancing together, the building of a bigger table takes patience and Pavlovitz offers an honest and transparent new book that is filled with autobiography, story-telling, and strategy for a hopeful path forward for those who wish to accept the invitation to be brave and bold in their faith community’s welcome and to be effective dance partners in the dance between religion and culture today.

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An Earnestness and An Elegance
 
A Feature Review of 
 

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays
Megan Stielstra

 
Paperback: Harper Perennial, 2017
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Reviewed by Seth Vopat
 
 
We have learned a mere 140 characters is all that is needed to express much in our digital world. Twitter has become the ideal platform for those with a sharp whit who speak and connect with the emotional angst we all feel about current events in our world. For those who need more space the blog has become the preferred method to speak and analyze the present.

Some might say the essay format like Megan Stielstra’s new compilation of essays entitled, The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, is outdated and obsolete in our digital wrong. But, they would be wrong!

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Memory Carved Into the Land

A Review of 

Riverine: A Memoir
from Anywhere but Here
Angela Palm

Paperback: Graywolf Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Sarah Lyons

 

How is it possible to forget something that the land itself remembers?

When Angela Palm was in high school, her next-door neighbor and the boy she loved was sentenced to life in prison.  Corey, just coming off drugs and suffering from withdrawal—details Palm would not learn until much later in her life—murdered two of their elderly neighbors and then stole the couple’s car, lighting it on fire a few towns away in an attempt to erase what he’d done.  In the days that followed his arrest, Palm’s rural Indiana hometown would speculate as to what his motives were.  Her government class took the opportunity to talk about opposing views on the death penalty.  Coworkers whispered rumors until they noticed her listening, and then silenced themselves in a weak attempt to protect her.  No one asked Palm if she was okay, and so she buried the trauma silently inside her.

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Here We Are, Slaves to This Day
 
A Feature Review of

Exile: A Conversation
with N.T. Wright

James M. Scott, Ed.

Hardback: IVP Academic, 2017
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Reviewed by Joseph Johnson

 

At their best, good conversations are lively, wide-ranging, and sometimes even surprising. They push us to consider ideas from new angles and hammer out with fresh clarity why we see things the way we do. It’s not always easy to find these kinds of discussions, but the essays that make up Exile: A Conversation with N.T. Wright demonstrate for the most part what thoughtful scholarly discussion is meant to look like. The contributors are generally successful at avoiding the twin pitfalls of uncritical acceptance and blunt rejection in their responses to N.T. Wright’s influential (and controversial) proposal regarding the notion of ongoing exile as an influential “controlling narrative” for many Second Temple Jews and early Jesus followers (8).

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Sitting and Being Still Before God
 
A Feature Review of  

Imaginative Prayer: A Yearlong Guide for Your Child’s Spiritual Formation
Jared Patrick Boyd 

Paperback: InterVarsity Press, 2017
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Review by Erin F. Wasinger

 

The first session, we were flying.

After welcoming the Holy Spirit into our prayer time together, my three elementary-aged daughters and I sat on the living room floor and imagined ourselves in the air.

Reading from the guidebook in my lap, Imaginative Prayer: A Yearlong Guide for Your Child’s Spiritual Formation(InterVarsity Press), I led us from the ocean floor to outer space, each time pausing to admire the beauty of God’s creation.

“There is so much here that God loves,” I read to my girls, then paused. The pattern of reading aloud and silence, of being guided and then left free to wonder for a few moments, is the masterpiece to the imaginative prayer sessions written by author Jared Patrick Boyd, a Vineyard USA pastor, father of four, and spiritual director.

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A Model of Passionate
and Detailed Conversation
 
A Review of 

Old-Earth or Evolutionary Creation?
Kenneth Keathley, J. B. Stump, and Joe Aguirre, Eds.

Paperback: IVP Academic, 2017
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Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake

 

Religious faith and scientific study haven’t always been at odds, but over the last few decades, few interdisciplinary conversations have been as publicly contentious. Between the rise of New Atheism and the speed of scientific discovery, the culture wars have persisted when it comes to issues like evolution/creation, the age of the earth, and more. These debates haven’t always been amicable, even within Christian circles, but two organizations committed to looking at these fields of study look for healthy ways to advance conversation. BioLogs and Reasons to Believe (RTB) have turned a decade’s worth of interaction into Old-Earth or Evolutionary Creation?, a work designed  to present not only views of the two groups, but also the charitable attitude that informs their ongoing discussions.

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Reframing our
Theology and Evangelism

 
A Review of

Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King.
Matthew Bates

Hardback: Baker Academic, 2017.
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Reviewed by Danny Yencich
 
 
Matthew Bates’s recent Salvation by Allegiance Alone is a welcome book. It is useful—vital, even—for Christians of any traditional or denominational stripe grappling with the Gospel.

The book, which is clearly aimed at a mixed audience of laity and students, forwards a simple but important thesis: contemporary Christianity has, for the most part, gotten it wrong when it comes to “belief, faith, works, salvation, heaven, and the gospel” itself (2). Bates’s argument hinges on a fresh take on the first item in that list— “belief” (pistis). Whenever the Greek term pistis appears in the New Testament with reference to eternal salvation, Bates suggests that allegiance, not “belief,” “is the best macro-term available to us that can describe what God requires from us for eternal salvation” (5). Thus, “it is by grace you have been saved through allegiance” to Jesus the Christ (Eph 2:8, Bates’s translation, 4). This is a marked departure from the standard rendering of this and most other NT instances of the term pistis, which is to say: Bates has picked a fight with a lot of people. His argument, however, is robust and demands a close reading from anyone who would immediately dismiss the thesis out of hand.

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A Unique Gift to World Christianity
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Born from Lament:
The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa

Emmanuel Katongole

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
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Reviewed by James Matichuk
 
 
 
I first encountered the work of Fr. Emmanuel Katongole in Reconciling All Things (IVP 2009), a book he co-authored with Chris Rice. That book was a user-friendly guide, discussing the Christian resources for reconciliation, and included an excellent chapter on lament.  This, alongside several other reflections, convinced me of the power and place of lament in Christian Spirituality. Since then, Katongole has written several books reflecting theologically on politics and violence in Africa and ethics.

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